Living “The Continued Demonstration” – Sobriety & the Post COVID-pocalypse

These things will come to pass naturally and in good time provided, however, the alcoholic continues to demonstrate that he can be sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless of what anyone says or does. Of course, we all fall much below this standard many times. But we must try to repair the damage immediately lest we pay the penalty by a spree.

Alcoholics Anonymous pg 99

This passage was originally written about the expectations a person in recovery should or shouldn’t have of his or her family. But, in our current context, the key concept is going to require a much wider interpretation.

The key concept is something called The Continued Demonstration:

  • Continuing to demonstrate sobriety
  • Continuing to demonstrate being considerate
  • Continuing to demonstrate being helpful
  • Continuing to demonstrate all of this REGARDLESS OF WHAT ANYONE SAYS OR DOES!

To start, I wanted to drift off for a quick second and mention that I have encountered many recovery groupings where it seemed to me that sobriety was a rarity, being inconsiderate was a badge of honor and definitions of helpful was definitely subject to one’s definition of the word at best.

Keeping in mind that most 12 Step groupings are peer based and centered on people like us helping other people like us and that we should look at it like going to a hospital except the people working at the hospital are the patients who are getting free of the same or a similar illness. What I mean is, only a fool would get mad at encountering sick people at such a hospital. If the other sick people at such a hospital bother you, it is quite possible the problem isn’t them, but that person you see in the big window over the sink in the bathroom.

That said, I think the importance of “The Continued Demonstration” as described above is often forgotten as a key part of the recovery process. That goes double for the “demonstrating being considerate” part.

Now back to where I was headed originally. I am hoping it is in the way it is in my context in the context of the readers reading this. In my context the obsession with turning everything into a “my team” against “the other team” and “whoever is not on my team is on the other team” mentality has grown into this huge monster absolutely devouring my nation.

city road people street

No matter what it is there must be two sides and a person is either “with me or against me” and everything requires the most vigorous debate possible and in the end “my opinion must be the winner at all costs.”

While this whole thing is the luxury of lots of people, for us in recovery this sort of narrow-minded interpretation of people and the ensuing instant aversion to entire groups of people is not some new awesomeness you discover that gives you some elusive status you have been searching for all of your life.

Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.

What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think life doesn’t treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?

Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 6061

This new level of “team mentality” that is so popular in my context, for people in recovery like us is just a disguised version of all of this. The mindset that “if these people would just think like me, they would be better and the world would be better” is not a newfound freedom, it is simply a repackaging of on old bondage.

While the conversations and other interactions are to some degree unavoidable (at least in my context), we must realize that these mindsets are a poison to our recoveries and our lives that we are not obligated to drink a gallon at a time.

The people around you may be immersed in this mindset and it may have the freedom to vomit their own brand of crazy on everyone they encounter with impunity, but this is not so for us. We are at risk of vomiting up our recovery, our lives and all over the people unlucky enough to care for us in times that we drift back into our insane behaviors we have been working so hard to leave behind.

close up photo of person wearing guy fawkes mask

If you have been in recovery and have been under the impression that the only change you need to make is the using, but you will otherwise be the same, then 12 Step recovery (and possibly any kind of recovery) is not for you.

IF YOU ARE NOT CHANGED INTO SOMETHING DIFFERENT THEN YOU ARE THE SAME AND CAN EXPECT THE SAME!!!

Now! Here is the deeper consideration. All the smart people who make mathematical and statistical suggestions based on research, statistics, trends and other smart-people-foolery seem to think that on top of worldwide pandemic there will be widespread bad things of various kinds to follow and possibly more sickness and on and on.

All of that may or may not be true, but one thing is for sure…

…however, the alcoholic continues to demonstrate that he can be sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless of what anyone says or does.

Alcoholics Anonymous pg 99

If the world does go through next level of turmoil, there will be some desire to blame, deserved or not. If absolutely nothing happens there will be a whole other desire to blame. There will be anger and some escalation of the “team mentality” (at least in my context).

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO REMAIN SOBER, CONSIDERATE AND HELPFUL in all of your interactions while all of that is going on? HOW ARE YOU GOING TO REMAIN SOBER, CONSIDERATE AND HELPFUL TO THE PEOPLE YOU PERCEIVE TO BE OPPOSED TO YOUR “SIDE” IN THESE COMING STRUGGLES? I know there are a few folks thinking snide little comments like “I’ll tell them how stupid they are. That is helping them isn’t it?” and the like.

woman holding white board with ha the world laughs at you handwriting

While quite funny, the choice is one of a recovery nature and in that sense a choosing of “life or death.” Do I participate in my inferiority complex based attempting to show myself superior to this other person by putting him/her down or do I figure out how to somehow be considerate and helpful in the hope of remaining sober?

After all, the reason most of us are dealing with recovery at any level is that we have some level of understanding that some or most my normal desires are self-destructive. That reality means that my natural desires to some degree or other CANNOT BE TRUSTED.

MY POINT!!! Just because you feel like it and other people are doing it does not mean you have the luxury of participating in it – WHATEVER THE “IT“ IS!

On a deeper level some of us may find ourselves less healthy, without work, without a home, without toilet paper or any number of forecasted things that may happen to any of us, but…

…however, the alcoholic continues to demonstrate that he can be sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless of what anyone says or does.

Alcoholics Anonymous pg 99

If life was a card game, mastery of it is going to require you learn how to play both the good and the bad hands well. This is even more true of the alcoholic and the addict. We have to be able to work our recovery and the changes to our lives both when life deals us good hands and when life deals us the bad hands.

A person in recovery who has built up a defense that goes completely back to his/her old behaviors and old life at the first sign of bad times has built absolutely nothing of any good use. EITHER YOU ARE CHANGED OR YOU ARE THE SAME!!! Bad times are just the test to see if the change is real or not, because your change is only a theory until it is tested by the bad times. Which by extension means that your recovery is only a theory until it is tested by the bad times.

A SKILLED CAPTAIN OF A SHIP IS NOT THE ONE WHO CAN ONLY NAVIGATE A SHIP THROUGH CALM WATERS. THE SKILLED CAPTAIN OF A SHIP IS THE ONE THAT CAN NAVIGATE THE SHIP THROUGH BOTH CALM AND ROUGH WATERS AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN.

While I am not trying to minimize anything you may be going through, please recognize that your recovery cannot be tossed about by everything around it like some rowboat in the middle of a storm with no oars, rudder or anchor. Things may or may no get bad for each one of us and people around us may be doing all kinds of things…

…however, the alcoholic continues to demonstrate that he can be sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless of what anyone says or does.

Alcoholics Anonymous pg 99

FEAR and the 4th Step!!! The Fears Inventory.

man wearing face mask

One question I have gotten regularly for years is to clarify the fears inventory for the 4th Step.

While there are many guidelines and varying ideas on how to do several parts of this step I will not go so far as to call anything right or wrong here, but I also have to be clear that I cannot give away something I have do not have. I know how it was done with me a couple of times and how it has been described in the literature and in the circles of historians and AA enthusiasts (if one can be such a thing) in my circles.

Before we get into any details it is important to remember what you are doing when doing the 4th Step.

“We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.”

Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 64

I guess I would describe this part of the process as ruthlessly looking for your internal enemy of your life, your recovery and your faith…  FEAR!

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

Dealing with “fear” is an important and key part of every person’s recovery.

Let’s start with the more extreme: Take the more obvious example a person who is an extreme narcissist…  behind any level of inferiority complex that makes a person repeatedly tell him/herself to constantly prove him/herself superior to everyone else is a fear that one is inferior.  In such a person’s case that fear is the root behind a long list of behaviors and decisions that destroys relationship, destroys happiness, destroys careers and makes enemies of everyone around that person (even if they smile in his or her face).

That narcissistic person will have resentments aimed at each person that stopped dealing with him/her (i.e. left them), for every person at every job that was lost or made uncomfortable and for every person the smiled in his/her face andtopless man sitting on brown and black block turned against him/her.

But, didn’t that person’s own fears create and exacerbate all of these situations.  Didn’t these situations lead this person to the restlessness, irritability and discontent that seemed to justify using?  Wasn’t all of this caused by this person shifting to “self-reliance” (pg 68) to find the elusive superiority and to ignore the feelings and needs of the people around him/her?

Almost everything negative in our lives can be tied to some fear or other that is deep within us and probably has been with us so long we probably see it as an old friend that protects us and not as the “evil and corroding thread” (pg 67) that is running through every part of our life trying to poison every aspect of it.

If you look diligently and with ruthless honesty you can find a fear or group of fears in just about every resentment. It may simply be an obvious fear that allowed you to get into that situation, the obvious fear that convinced you to stay in that situation or a complex web of fears that tangled together destroy your thinking, actions, interactions and the lives of everyone around you.

woman in white lace cap sleeved top and green skirt hiding behind brown wall

The truth is that awareness of these “FEARS” is a big step in overcoming them. These fears are so effective in negatively affecting our lives because we are erroneously convinced that they are some key ingredient to our success when in fact they are the enemy found in every destructive aspect of our life.

On your fourth step, you go through and look at each incident and first bracket the word “fear” next to every incident where you can see the fear(s) involved and you kept going.  Once you have done this to the entire list, you go through and the next column on the list is your fears list.  That is where you identify clearly and specifically what each fear is for each instance with ruthless honesty.  You need to have an outside look at yourself under a microscope that can se even the tiniest speck of fear in your life.

This fear is one of your “Greatest Enemies” (pg 145). And the irony is that some people struggle with this part of the steps because they have been trained to be afraid of having or admitting any fears and are in effect afraid of the word “fear.”

We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them. We asked ourselves why we had them. Wasn’t it because self-reliance failed us? Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn’t go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence, but it didn’t fully solve the fear problem, or any other.

Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 68

To set a basic guideline: With very few exceptions, for every item on your list some fear(s) is at the root of that resentment which ended in some act of selfishness on your part. To get rid of the selfish action and not the get rid of theroot fear behind it means the selfish action is destined to return or some new selfishness will surface ending in more resentments and destruction. When you cut off the top of a weed but leave the roots, that weed and other weeds will grow over time (no matter how good your garden may look today).never be afraid on typewriter

To sum up: We MUST ruthlessly look for every fear in each item on your list and confront it head on. Then add the fears that are not specifically tied to items already on your list, add those as well and confront those head on also. Additionally, we must be aware of the poison that some of us have for this process that is the “fear” of having or admitting our own fears. Guess what? You have to list that and ruthlessly confront that head on as well.

These new, honest looks at yourself and the roots of your behaviors, issues and self-centeredness will be key your working of the rest of the steps.

While there may be varying ways to work a 4th Step and it’s various parts, the key in this case is not as much the method as it is found in how vigorously, honestly and ruthlessly you search out, admit and confront your own hidden (or not so hidden) fears.

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

Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 6364

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.

What Do I Do One Day At a Time?

 

What Do I Do One Day At a Time?

 

Picture Collage Maker 2013 Calendar
Picture Collage Maker 2013 Calendar (Photo credit: Squidooer)

 

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

 

In recovery circles, people often throw around the idea of living “one day at a time”.  This passage is one of the descriptions of what you do one day at a time and hopefully at some point what you do all of the time.  The passage is specifically describing Step 11 and is tied to Step 10, but is way more important than just that.  Recovery is not about being able to check twelve boxes that indicate you have completed twelve magic steps and then living happily ever after.  Recovery is a process of gaining much more than that:

 

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 58)

 

Recovery is not a matter of just doing a bunch of things; recovery is about “grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.”  The things you do in recovery have been designed to guide you to that end.

 

Working the Steps is designed to help each of us understand and to develop a way of living your life and that way of living is centered on being brutally honest.

 

The passage we started with gives us a key example of some of the things we are to be brutally honest about and by being brutally honest about these things on a daily basis we are working on making this the way we live our lives.

 

According to that passage on page 86, we are learning to live a life:

 

  • free of being resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid
  • where whenever you have done any of these things or anything that may have hurt another person you apologize to them
  • where you are open and honest with others about even the deepest and darkest areas of your life and you cease to have those secret destructive areas in your life
  • where you are kind and loving towards all people
  • where you not only live positively, but you are always looking for how you can improve
  • where you no longer focus on how comfortable you are or are not and live a truly unselfish life
  • where you check on these things in the morning, in the evening and throughout each day to quickly catch when you are messing up in one of these areas and fix the problem immediately.

 

In other words:  RECOVERY IS THE PROCESS OF CHANGE.  THE AMOUNT OF RECOVERY YOU EXPERIENCE IS EQUAL TO THE AMOUNT OF POSITIVE CHANGING YOU DO.  Areas in your life that you are not willing to change are areas in your life that are keeping you from recovery.  UNWILLINGNESS TO CHANGE IS UNWILLINGNESS TO RECOVER.  UNWILLINGNESS TO CHANGE IS A DETERMINATION TO STAY THE SAME.   If you are determined to stay the same you can only expect the same results.  If you stay the same, you will do the same and relapse is inevitable.

 

Change is an incredibly hard thing to do and few people have the desire to completely change the totality of how they think and act.  Most people are willing to change a few particularly bad areas of their lives.  Most people just want to change a few isolated areas and somehow live happily ever after somehow getting vastly different results while still living basically the same way they have been.

 

A key ingredient required for all of this is the “rigorous honesty” that is required for all of these things.

 

Not only do you need to be brutally honest with yourself about the all of these areas, but you need to regularly talk with others who are brutally honest with you.  I don’t mean periodically either.  That passage describes discussing these things with these people at once in an effort to gain their outside “rigorous honesty”.

 

A person who is incapable of this kind of rigorous honesty an particularly those incapable of being brutally honest with themselves are one of those unfortunates that will not experience recovery.

 

YOU CAN HAVE RECOVERY IF YOU CAN SEARCH FOR, FIND AND ACCEPT THE FACTS THEN DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO CHANGE ACCORDINGLY.

 

This describes one of the main struggles of recovery while at the same time describing the facts that are the hope for recovery.  Recovery is change and change is hard yet can be achieved.

 

Think of how all of this is tied to “The Promises” you hear recited at many Twelve Step meetings:

 

We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

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

 

The question is not: “Are these things possible?”  The question is, are you willing to work for them.  That means are you willing to be brutally honest and are you willing to be completely changed in the process?

 

Make this year, make each day, make each minute, make each interaction, make even each thought an experience of brutal honesty and an opportunity for significant change in your life.  Live the new lifestyle “one day at a time” and one rigorously honest change at a time and have a rigorously honest, happy New Year.

 

 

 

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.

Truly Letting Go – Starting at the Bottom

Truly Letting Go – Starting at the Bottom

 

Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely. (Alcoholics Anonymous page_58)

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

I know that many of those reading this may have to substitute alcohol with all sorts of things in Step 1 but that is not the point I was focused on.

Ladder Nemesis
(Photo credit: Trevor Dennis)

Obviously the common idea here is the unmanageable, letting go of old ideas part of these passages.

These are the kinds of cliches that we all regularly hear around recovery, but we rarely take the time to consider the depth of such concepts. What does it mean to understand you are powerless and let go of all of your old ideas. Many people unknowingly try to reduce these concepts to something you have to do in early recovery and can avoid thinking much about later.

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

Self focus is a one of the main reasons we cannot “let go absolutely” or accept powerlessness and that our lives are completely unmanageable.

We all have to ask ourselves if we are truly ready to accept total powerlessness and let go of everything absolutely including everything I think I know and can control. After all, if I am powerless and my life is completely unmanageable what I know has no power and cannot help me control anything and I have to let go of those ideas. I have to be willing to let go of everything and start over.

I was reading over one of the stories in the back of the Fourth Edition; “The Man Who Mastered Fear”, and I was struck by how this man was a huge go getter who traveled and dated quite a bit and even with a debilitating set of fears could still make money selling things from his car and so forth and yet found the need to let go of everything he thought and rebuild himself from the ground up.

Within a year of my return to Detroit, A.A. was a definitely established little group of about a dozen members, and I too was established in a modest but steady job handling an independent dry-cleaning route of my own. I was my own boss. It took five years of A.A. living, and a substantial improvement in my health before I could take a full-time office job where someone else was boss.

This office job brought me face to face with a problem that I had sidestepped all my adult life, lack of training. This time I did something about it. I enrolled in a correspondence school that taught nothing but accounting. With this specialized training, and a liberal business education in the school of hard knocks, I was able to set up shop some two years later as an independent accountant. Seven years of work in this field brought an opportunity to affiliate myself actively with one or more clients, a fellow A.A. We complement each other beautifully, as he is a born salesman and my taste is for finance and management. At long last I am doing the kind of work I have always wanted to do but never had the patience and emotional stability to train myself for. The A.A. program showed me the way to come down to earth, start from the bottom, and work up. This represents another great change for me. In the long ago past I used to start at the top as president or treasurer and end up with the sheriff breathing down my neck. (Alcoholics Anonymous Fourth Edition page 255The Man Who Mastered Fear)

We all have to learn how to “start from the bottom, and work up.” That is a fear for many of us. The fear of not having things the way I want them, when I want them and how I want them. The fear of letting go of the few things you feel you control or do not have to let go of.

If you have areas of your life that you think you can control or things from the past that you feel you cannot let go of you have not “let go absolutely.

How can you get free of a bondage if you are clinging to things from the bondage. It’s like a person who was in jail, getting released but trying to hold on to the bars on the way. That person will have to let go completely to actually get free.

There is freedom in recovery and it is offered to us, but one of the prerequisites is that we accept that we are powerless and let go completely. That means for all of us who are in recovery, starting recovery, or who have a friend or loved one in recovery we each have to ask ourselves if we are ready to let go completely and start from the bottom and work up (possibly several times).

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.

The Idiot in My Mirror

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

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

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

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

Remonstrance:

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

Row:

noun

1. a noisy dispute or quarrel; commotion.

2. noise or clamor.

verb (used without object)

3. to quarrel noisily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay sober my friends from the idiot in my mirror,

Wade H.

Sober is “But a Beginning”?

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

Sober is “But a Beginning”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s put this idea into family perspective:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and tolerance of others is our code.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.